Should We Buy A 2nd Car For This Reason?

The trigger

It was 6 PM on Tuesday, July 3rd.

I showed up at my son’s daycare to pick him up. July 4th was the next day, so I double-checked with the teacher’s assistant to make sure that they were closed that day.

To my surprise, the assistant said they would be closed on July 5th and 6th (Thursday & Friday) as well.

“What?! No one told me this. I haven’t asked my boss for approval to telecommute or take those two days off yet.

And it was already Tuesday afternoon.” My mind went into a frenzy.

I was mad for the following reasons:

1. Those dates (July 5th and 6th) weren’t written as days off in the contract.

2. No one told me the daycare was going to be closed on those days.

3. I wasn’t happy about asking my boss for approval at the last minute. I was assigned a new supervisor just four days before and didn’t want to leave a bad impression on him.

4. The office was already closed, and I doubted if my new boss would check his work email on July 4th.

5. I did not appreciate a last-minute notice from the teacher about my son.

I checked the messages and emails on my phone. There was no announcement or notification from the teacher. I was really upset but tried to keep calm.

I called the teacher but couldn’t reach her. I asked other parents who are our neighbors. They told me they had been informed a month before. Apparently, the teacher just forgot to tell me, which she later confirmed.

Related: Our 7 Expectations For Our Son

Looking back

I went home and shared the news with Mr. FAF, who wasn’t happy either. It wasn’t the first time the daycare just closed on a day they were supposed to open. And those days were not written in our contract either.

We were so unhappy about the way things were handled that we started talking about sending Baby FAF to a proper daycare center.

Our son is currently a little older than 3 and has been going to the same daycare for a little more than a year. It’s an in-home daycare with two teachers watching about 8-9 kids from 1.5 months to 4 years old.

They charge $295/week and don’t provide food. I pack lunch, snacks, and drinks for our son every day. We initially wanted to send him to a proper daycare center (though a bit more expensive at $375/week with food and drinks).

However, our neighbors strongly recommended the in-home daycare and said that the other center was overpriced.

We went to check the center on a Friday. I was a bit appalled at the lack of cleanliness in the class and the overpowering smell of milk, vomit, and bathroom mixed together in a tiny space.

Why the in-home daycare

We decided on the in-home daycare for 6 reasons:

1. It seemed cleaner than the other place. Every kid would get to sleep in a proper crib instead of a mat on the floor at the center.

2. I could pack lunch for our son, and he could continue to eat the food he was used to at home. We would have control over what he ate (i.e. no unhealthy snacks or sugar drinks like juice or fruit punch).

3. He could get more attention and care from the teachers due to a smaller-sized class (8 kids v. 16 kids for two teachers).

4. The in-home daycare is only a 5-minute walk from our house while the center is a 20-minute walk. This is important to us since we are a one-car family.

I would be in charge of dropping Baby FAF off at daycare. It will make my one-way commute 1 hour and 20 minute instead of only 45-50 minutes. Mr. FAF has the car but leaves home at 5:45 AM every morning and comes home pretty late at night (7-9 PM).

5. It was $80/week cheaper, meaning we could save $4,160/year on daycare. The price wasn’t a big factor in our decision at the time since we wanted our on to get the best care and education he could.

After all, we spent one year away from our son, and just wanted the best for him. But it was a plus that the in-home daycare was cheaper.

6. Our neighbors highly recommended the in-home daycare and the teacher.

Related: Why We Sent Our Son To China

After much deliberation, Mr. FAF and I decided to enroll our son at the in-home daycare. However, after a couple of months, we realized the following shortcomings of the place:

1. Unexpected days off: The teacher would tell us the daycare would be closed on unexpected dates for religious or cultural reasons/events that are not stated in the contract. We just bite the bullet to avoid tension with the teacher. The neighbors had not mentioned any of this to us.

2. Lack of a proper curriculum for older toddlers: The place is great for kids up to 2-2.5 years old. I know the teacher talks about coloring, spelling, learning how to sing and such.

But according to other parents, they don’t have a proper curriculum for 3-4 year-old toddlers like at pre-K. That makes us increasingly concerned since our son is a little older than 3 and can’t really form long sentences yet.

I know kids develop at different paces, and our son was in China during this 2nd year. But we just got anxious about his speech development.

Alternatives

That weekend, I asked for recommendations for a proper pre-K and quickly realized that those pre-K centers are at least 2 miles away from our house.

Basically, they’re not within walking distance from where we live. There were only two options for us to make that happen:

1. Mr. FAF will need to leave for work later (6:30 AM instead of 5:45 AM) and come home earlier (5 PM instead of 7-9 PM) to drop off and pick up Baby FAF. This is not a good long-term solution since it will affect Mr. FAF’s job performance and schedule.

2. We need to purchase another car just so that we can send our son to a pre-K.

Dilemma 

Nope, we’re not getting this car.

Mr. FAF and I told each other our son was more important than money.

And we were willing to buy another car so that he could get better care and education.

We toyed with the idea of getting a minivan since our family is growing.

However, it would cost us around $30,000 to get even a used van.

We then considered getting a $5,000 used car (probably Toyota Corolla).

Having a second car will probably add $200-300 of expenses a month for car insurance, gas, maintenance, and repairs.

We were fine with that decision until we considered my schedule and our second baby.

Those pre-K centers don’t take infants under 16 months. We will need to send our second baby to daycare when she’s two months old.

We will need to resort to the in-home daycare. I will need to drop off and pick up our kids at two different locations every day.

After dropping them off, I will need to drive home to take the Metro to work (traffic, parking, and the long drive makes the train ride much more reasonable).

That means that I will need to get up at least an hour earlier (5:15 AM) to squeeze in the drop-offs at two different locations and show up at work at least 30 minutes earlier (7:30 AM) in order to leave work 30 minutes earlier (4:30 PM). The logistics just sound much more complicated than what we had expected.

What should we do?

My friend told me to consider it carefully since we, especially me, will probably be very busy and exhausted when our baby is only two months old.

Deep down, we want to send our son to the pre-K. But the thought of having to get a second car with the associated costs and the time we spend dropping our kids off at daycare and picking them up also sound very daunting, especially after I just give birth.

As I mentioned before, I want to continue working since the benefits of me working (for me and our family) far outweigh those of me being a stay-at-home mom.

I know everyone’s situation and preference is different. But both Mr. FAF and I have agreed that I will continue to work after giving birth to our second daughter.

What would you do if you were in our situation? 

Related:

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Time To Freak Out: My Mom Can’t Help Us With Our 2nd Baby

The Financial Implications of Having A Baby While In Grad School

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25 thoughts on “Should We Buy A 2nd Car For This Reason?”

  • Man your life sounds so far away from mine just as a contrast because we’re usually so similar. I think a car might be a necessary expense. How far is Mr. Fafs commute to work by car and/or public transit? I think a busy working mom should get the main car.

    • I know, right! If only we can get by with no car >_< His commute is usually 45 minutes without traffic. If we can a used car, he will drive it. I will drive our current car since we bought it new and it runs pretty well so far (Toyota Corolla).

  • Wow, quite a dilemma. Over the years when faced with something like this we’ve definitely gone the route of investing money in our kids. Our older one is done with college now, but our younger one goes a year from now, and in the last half year we have spent way more money on her than we expected in giving her the best opportunities to get into a good college (its crazy out there!). It is a squeeze because we are on the cusp of empty nest and financial independence after so many years of raising our kids, but the reality is that having kids is expensive!

    The idea of time savings and stress savings is super important to me – that would be a big consideration in my book.

    • Thank you for your input, Scott! You and your wife sound like amazing parents! This is indeed a dilemma for us, especially because our baby is more a little more than a month, and we want to make sure we’re in the best shape to take care of both kids. I think hubby and I might wait for a couple of months until the baby is a few months old to switch schools for our toddler. But I still want to get feedback from the reader like yourself to make sure we make the right move 🙂

  • I have some bad news. Driving kids around only gets more complicated. In a few years, they will need to get to school and activities. For some lucky people, the school bus makes school easy. However the activities can be a nightmare with practices and games with irregular schedules. The weather will change schedules with almost no notice. Sometimes the activities are an hour long, making them too long to just wait, but too short to go home and back.

    • Sigh having kids indeed can get expensive. Thanks for your input, Mr. JumpStart! My baby is not even born yet, and I already feel the stress of driving the kids around given our schedules. >_<

  • I understand the challenges you all are going through. It is hard to make decisions especially because the new baby may make you feel even more exhausted and stressed. Have you put any thought into an “au pair” or nanny? I know you live in a HCOL area but adding up work loss time, costs of two centers for the kids and an additional car maybe it would be a wash. perhaps you could run some numbers. I know you had grandmother helping but a young professional or even an older caregiver could keep your kids learning, happy, safe while you both keep your higher earning jobs.
    Best of luck

    • We’ve actually talked to some neighbors/friends who have an au pair. We want our son to interact with other kids and learn more about the American culture/education, so having an au pair might defeat that purpose. Plus, they don’t help with housework/cooking and just watch the kids, so we think that sending our kids to school is a better option. It’s always complicated to have someone else living with us.

  • I’d go with the in-home daycare for now. You can drop 2 kids off at the same time. It’s easier for you. Once you’ve adjusted to dealing with 2 kids, you can move the older kid to preschool. You need to make life easier for yourself for now.
    I just came back from visiting friends and families in CA. Families with 2 and 3 kids are frazzled all the time. It’s hectic with more than one kid.

    • I agree about the in-home daycare. I personally don’t think a structured preschool is that important as long as a child is in good care. I put my first son in a fancy 3 year old preschool and after that experience decided that the Mother’s Day Out program I had him in at age 2 as well as one day a week at age 3 was just as good for his development at half the price of the preschool. Also, our son didn’t attend pre-k. My MIL homeschooled him at age 4 while I was having my second baby and he’s doing great at 11. He was in honors classes last year and got straight As and the year before was a finalist in our county’s history bee.

      My question for an in-home place would be do they have a lot of books and read to them often? I think a love of books is why both my kids do so well now they are 11 and 7 and that being in an environment that values reading is more important than a curriculum.

    • Thank you for your feedback, Joe! That’s exactly what hubby and I decided to do: keeping our son at the in-home daycare and waiting for things to settle down with our 2nd baby. We will then make a decision about whether/where to send our son to pre-K. Some neighbors told us that pre-K is not totally necessary as long as we teach our son at home. We will need to see how he makes progress in his speech development. 🙂

  • I’m a new follower and just wanted to mention that if your son is still catching up on speech he may be eligible for early intervention or school-sponsored preschool which is no cost. Certainly worth looking into as an option. My son did it for one year and it made all the different in preparing for kindergarten.

  • Since you have decided that both of you continuing to work is what’s best for your family then get the second car if it makes your life easier. You can find used minivans within a 75-mile distance of Washington DC for $15,000 to $25,000 if that’s the type of vehicle you wish to have. However, unless you plan on having more than 2 children I wouldn’t recommend the minivan. You can fit two car seats more than comfortably in the back seat of a car and save the money on the purchase price as well as gas. If you need a larger vehicle for trips you can rent it easily.

  • I think you should send him to pre-k for structured classes. While I can’t remember exactly what they taught in pre-K, I’m sure it made a large difference for me. I didn’t speak English at all when I got here and I arrived just in time for pre-K. I think the other kids speaking English definitely helped.

    Maybe you guys could get a used car? The commute does sound very hellish :(. Could you partner with a neighbor to carpool if they also want to go to pre-K?

  • Lol what’s up with you Americans and your obsession with mini vans and trucks. 😂

    The part I dislike about America and in part Canada. Long commutes with poor public transport, makes it pretty much necessary to own a car to go anywhere.

    I’ve had pretty good experiences with Skoda Fabia’s and Ford Focus’.

    Seems like the in home day care simplifies the logistics and seems like a better fit for now.

    Raising kids seems to be getting more and more complicated by the minute. Good luck with it anyway, and I hope it doesn’t get too manic.

  • Two of my great grand children who are spaced about like yours will be, went to the same in home day care. They seemed to enjoy having a family member with them, and became protective of each other. Of course the baby won’t be able to protect anyone at first, but will enjoy seeing a familiar face . In our state, there is a free pre- kindergarten program as part of the public school system for half a day starting at 4. The oldest would go to that in the morning and someone from the day care would pick her up in the afternoon. She will be starting full time kindergarten this year. This is in a somewhat rural area and you may have more sophisticated plans for your children, but this seems to work for them.

  • The disorganization of the daycare place would drive me nuts! They have to realize that working parents need to plan to take days off, etc.

    Having to drive kids to two different locations seems like it would really wear you down. I’d look into keeping them both at the same place, especially as it’s so close to where you live. However, this would all change if the place wasn’t able to care for the kids in a way that’s up to your standards.

  • You lost me at “I was a bit appalled at the lack of cleanliness in the class and the overpowering smell of milk, vomit, and bathroom mixed together in a tiny space.” But it’s your choice.

    Have you considered becoming a stay-at-home-mom? I don’t know how much you make at your job, but many women find that with the expenses of commuting, child care, etc., they are pretty much only working to cover the cost of working.

    Since you love to do a cost analysis on everything, maybe give that one a try and see how the numbers shake out.

    • As I mentioned in the post above, the benefits of me working far outweigh those of me staying at home. You can see more detailed of my cost-benefit analysis in this post.

      My salary can cover the costs of two kids in daycare, commuting costs, healthcare for the whole family, my 403b retirement, and other perks we only get when I work full-time (i.e. 5% match for my 403b regardless of my contribution). Plus, we will still have a couple of hundreds dollars for disposable income.

      So yes, I did consider it, but I think we’re better off as a family with me working. Hubby also supports my decision. It’s better for our family’s finances and my professional/personal development. Being a stay-at-home mom is not for everyone, including myself.

  • Tough call, but I think you should just keep them at the same daycare. This is the least stressful option for you! My sisters do the majority of the work with their kids (they’re stay at home moms but one has a small cake making business) and the ferrying of kids is generally on them – just as it would end up being on you. It’s exhausting, I think you moms work hard enough without the extra hassle!

    Certainly they need to better inform you about closures etc, and if it is not in the contract I hope they are making up for it in some way. Maybe you can also make a note of which holidays they tend to close for? Or they can maybe give you an outline and then you make a note of it as well? Good luck!!

  • My child was behind on speech and went to a free preschool to work on it. He was fully caught up by kindergarten and is now doing fantastic. In PA a county intermediate unit tests the children age 3+ (it’s called early intervention before age 3) and draws up a plan to address shortcomings. Then they give you free preschool and a bus comes to your house to pick up your child for free to get him there. I don’t know where you live but you should check out what is available in your state. It is hard to hear your child needs help (especially if he hasn’t been in another country so there’s no real reason for the delay ) but if you do it early it can be much easier to correct.

  • We had/have a Honda fit and a Honda CR-V with two kids. Works out fine. Fits are like mini minivans and do great for gas mileage. As for the crazy daycare stuff I feel ya. We threw in the towel about 7 months after our second was born and my wife now is doing all the daytime raising. It hurt financially (lost about 2k in potential savings each month). We still have two cars so she won’t be isolated as badly. But it’s been worth it. Life was too crazy before. We barely remember our first’s early years.

  • Count me in the second car category. Have you considered what happens if the kid gets sick mid day when they have to be driven somewhere? And little ones get sick often in my experience.

  • What would I do in this situation?

    1) Keep your son in the same daycare. I would do this for the stability of staying with the same caregivers and being in the same place as the new baby.

    2) Have a conversation with the daycare providers regarding closures. Tell them that you really need X amount of notice so that you can make arrangements with work. Be nice, be polite, but don’t avoid the subject for fear of tension. It’s reasonable for you to expect to know when they are closed!

    3) If you are concerned about a speech delay, talk to your pediatrician and get an evaluation. If your son needs speech therapy, a speech therapist can even come to the daycare through early intervention.

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